SEOEMS board says no to paying county

Published 10:03 am Wednesday, June 8, 2011

They lost round one, but that’s not stopping officials from going after the more than $300,000 that the state auditor says is owed Lawrence County by the Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Services.

Monday night at a special meeting of the entire SEOEMS board a motion by Lawrence County Commissioner Les Boggs to reimburse the county was defeated 6 to 2. The meeting had been called at the request of Boggs. The two votes in favor of the measure came from the two Lawrence County members attending.

“I told them I didn’t have anything personal against the board,” Boggs said. “However, we were greatly dissatisfied with the vote. It is obvious we did more runs than the other counties and that revenue was to go to Lawrence County.”

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Now the commissioners want to know if the SEOEMS board vote takes precedence over a finding by the state auditor’s office.

Last year two of the three counties that made up SEOEMS — Athens and Jackson — voted to pull out of the emergency medical service.

That act disbanded the EMS that had served the area for decades, forcing Lawrence County to start its own service.

In May, State Auditor Dave Yost released an audit of SEOEMS for the years 2008, 2009 and 2010. According to the audit in each of the targeted years, Lawrence County made money.

In 2008, the county brought in $169,851 more than its expenditures. In 2009, the county had $118,750 more in receipts and in 2010, that figure was $12,795.

However, Athens operated in the red for all three years with a total deficit of $409,118. Jackson had deficits of $83,598 in 2008 and $220,884 in 2010.

In 2009, Jackson had a surplus of $68,175. That adds up to Athens and Jackson owing SEOEMS $645,425 and Lawrence owed a refund of $301,396.

“We explained to them how it had been past practice for SEOEMS to reimburse counties that had been underpaid,” Boggs said. “We had received refund checks in 2005, 2006 and 2007. This audit was for 2008, 2009 and 2010. They said they didn’t have all of those in their records.”

Also even though SEOEMS no longer operates, revenue is still coming in from runs made in 2010.

“I informed them that the collections so far in 2011 showed Lawrence County is at least $100,000 in collections higher than the other two counties from last year,” Boggs said. “I think Lawrence County had paid more than our fair share and should be reimbursed that money, since we have been diligent with our money.”

However Lawrence officials were told that SEOEMS didn’t have the funds to reimburse the county.

“If Athens and Jackson paid their $645,000, then they would have enough,” Boggs said.

Right now the commissioners plan to ask the state auditor’s office how the finding for reimbursement can be enforced.

“I am not saying that we are going to jump into any litigation,” Boggs said. “But we are going to continue to fight that Lawrence County gets its fair share.”